Performing Arts: Dance
January 23, 2015
Fans packed the BAM Gilman Opera house for the opening night of the Mariinsky Ballet’s production of Swan Lake famously set to Tchaikovsky’s melancholy score and conducted by Valaery Gergiev, Artistic Director of the Mariinsky Theatre. This visit offers audiences an opportunity to experience a production based on the 1895 production by Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov) and remade in 1950 by Constantine Sergeyev. Known for a haunting final act, it includes the colorful character dances and single-breathing corps.

Perhaps jet-lagged (having arrived a couple of days earlier from Russia), the ballet company and orchestra shifted in and out of focus on opening night. However, a few nights later, the music and dancing was far more coherent.

When the young bachelor Prince Siegfried (Vladimir Shklyarov) goes hunting, a flock of swans materialize on a lake and suddenly, the Swan Queen, Odette (Viktoria Tereshkina) transforms into a beautiful woman. A low-keyed dramatic ballerina, Ms. Tereshkina does not register large emotions. Cool and contained, her technique features a long, pliant back, secure turns and elegant extensions; however, her feet look dowdy and she does not connect emotionally to the Prince, Vladimir Shklyarov.

The clear ribbon of corps dancers encasing and revealing the Swan Queen, remind the audience of this company’s proud tradition, one that stretches back to czarist Russia in the 18th century. One of the great pleasures of the company is watching the traditional character dances. Particularly delightful, the Neapolitan Dance (Anna Lavrinenko, Alexey Nedviga) and the Hungarian Dance (Oleg Belik, Boris Zhurilov) capture the spirited turns, prances and head flings that unfurl bright hair ribbons and full skirts.

Under the spell of the evil Rothbart (Andrei Yermakov), Odette and her swan court revert to avian forms when the first rays of dawn strike. After pledging true love to Odette, the Prince faces a castle full of beautiful ladies at a ball organized by his parents. Uninterested in anyone, suddenly the horns blare and a mysterious guest appears. It’s Odile (Odette’s mean twin) escorted by the sorcerer-like Rothbart.

Immediately, the Prince partners the fiendish Odile as she snaps into dagger-like arabesques, spits out crispy turns—all the while, casting knowing glances at Rothbart. Ms. Tereshkina perks up a bit in this section, and reels off an impressive string of 32 fouettes peppered with double revolutions. Sexual heat remains at a cool simmer, but in the final act, the Prince and Odette exude a sense of despair. Undone when the Prince rips off his wings, Rothbart writhes on the floor, dies and the two are united. Yes, this version has a happy ending---maybe that was intended to suggest Russia’s future as a communist nation?

The second Swan Lake program was palpably stronger. Featuring Oxana Skorik (Odette/Odile) and Zander Parish (Prince Siegfried), as well as a nastily, sterling Rothbart (Yuri Smekalov), the music, conducted by Gavriel Heine, and dancers proved much clearer and sharper. Skorik’s creamy arms appear to originate from the middle of her back, framing her body in airy, undulating waves. Her Prince, Mr. Parish demonstrates a fine classical line and good dancer’s body, but he betrays unfinished landings from turns and jumps. Once Odette breaks out of the virginal white into Odile black tutu, Ms. Skorik’s eyes flash, casting them down seductively and then opening them wide looking first at Rothbart and then at the Prince.

One must note as well the strong technical and theatrical performance by Yuri Smekalov—in a ferocious death scene—and the Two Swans Yekaterina Ivannikova and Anastasia Nikitina.

Despite the company’s inconsistencies, there’s something marvelous about watching a Swan Lake production that engraved the Mariinsky Ballet’s international reputation.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis

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